(originally published on Apr 15th at topghost.tumblr.com)
I was trying to think about where to start. Not so much for anyone reading, but for myself. I want to be more mindful of my hobby, since I spend such an insane amount of time on it. I’m not sure if it’s normal, but sometimes it seems that gamers spend more time thinking and talking about things that aren’t out yet than they do actually playing and talking about games that are out. We toss around acronyms not just for consoles and new technology, but for so many titles and series. It’s overwhelming sometimes.
As of this reading, I’m subscribed to 60 feeds for video game-related websites. Some are news, some are editorial, some are a mix of both comprising all the content on a larger site. A couple are a bit more esoteric, but that still makes up almost 20% of all of the news that I get on Google Reader dedicated to this one topic. I was an avid reader of EGM before it died and I listen to two weekly podcasts: Idle Thumbs, which I consider to be some of the most interesting commentary on games in the industry right now, and Listen Up, which is frequently 2+ hours long. For a few of my closest friends, video gaming is our only shared interest, so any time not spent talking about our lives or other things of consequence is mostly spent talking about games. We spend entire discussions speculating which games companies will be willing to localize from other countries, which sequels will be more than just quick cash-ins, and whether or not games will sell well upon release. We talk about the differences between versions of a game that’s being remade and argue over whether the left analog stick’s X-axis is best used for turning or strafing. I don’t know if this kind of obsession with what surrounds the actual hobby is normal for other types of interests. Maybe it’s because, despite the ability to play games on handhelds or to play games with friends, there are more times when you can’t be playing games than there are when you can’t be listening to music? I don’t know if the same is true for reading books or watching movies/TV shows or such, though.
I do actually play video games too. As a kid I used to rush through homework so I could play video games. The Nintendo 64 came out when I was in middle school and began spending a lot more time hanging out with my friends, so memories of playing multiplayer modes of Goldeneye, Mario Kart, and Smash Bros are very strong. Even when I got to high school and the Gamecube came out, my weekends were dominated by marathon sessions of Smash Bros Melee. Elaborate systems were designed to best handle how to fairly share controllers between 5, 6, or 7 people. 8 or more (which was not uncommon) required use of the tournament features. We didn’t just play multiplayer games, however. We watched each other play through a lot of games, helping with puzzles or offering advice for tricky portions. The Silent Hill and Resident Evil games had to be played in my friend’s basement with the lights off and surround sound turned on. Zelda games were played through by people who had never had a chance to play them, with veterans of the series cheering on the newcomers. As overwhelmed as I am by the amount of time that we spend discussing the periphery of the hobby, there is no lack of memories to be found actually playing the games, and many of those memories are social ones spent among great friends. Then again, there are the games that I played when I was alone: holing up in the basement of my house when Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker came out on Gamecube during my spring break; playing through Bioshock just after moving to Connecticut, living in a town where I didn’t know anyone and hadn’t started working yet; mastering the hardest mode of Ouendan in my college apartment while I stayed in town and my roommates went off to other places for the summer. Games can be a shared time with friends, an escape from boredom or work or real life troubles, a power fantasy, or a mental stimulus. Most of all, games are fun and they’re something I spend so much time on that I’d like to be more aware of what effect they have on me.
What I do here may not be valuable to anyone besides me. I want to stop and think about the games I’ve played. I want to remember what was happening in my life at the time I was playing them, what I felt when I was playing them, and what that means to me. In some cases I’ll do this while I’m playing the game or only a little while after playing them. In those cases I will inevitably talk more about the physical experience of playing the game, since that will still be fresh in my memory. I’m also going to attempt to record some impressions of games that I played some time ago— with my bad memory this may not lead to as many specifics of how I felt about the game itself, but with a little more emotional hindsight I may be better equipped to explain what the game meant to me and why it was important enough for me to be writing about it now.